Touhou Luna Nights

Touhou Luna Nights Review

Time to get a new Metroidvania

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing an Xbox One on

Touhou Luna Nights is rated Teen by the ESRB

The Touhou universe has a brand new console release in the form of the fantastic Luna Nights so let's explore its Metroidvania world.

Touhou Luna Nights screenshot 1
If I stop time, I could walk right on by!

As a fan of Touhou and its many fan-made spin-offs, I was looking forward to the console release of Luna Nights and now that I played it, I'm very impressed with what it has to offer. Its visual style immediately reminded me of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and that's definitely a good thing. For decades, I've been wondering why more games don't try to emulate its striking animations and gorgeous pixel-perfect environments and Touhou Luna Nights does so beautifully. Add in the familiar all-female cast of the Touhou franchise, an awesome soundtrack, and imaginative enemy designs and you're left with a game world that's as immersive as it is captivating. Plus, the sound effects are super-gratifying and really amplify the onscreen action. Overall, it's one supremely presented Metroidvania.

With all of that being said, Touhou Luna Nights is far from a standard Metroidvania as its central gameplay mechanic centres on time manipulation. Aside from running and jumping around while attacking by throwing clouds of knives, you regularly have to stop and slow down time in order to progress past puzzles as well as fight enemies. For example, some monsters will rush towards you so if you stop time and set a bunch of knives in motion for when you resume, they'll fly into the enemy and hopefully kill it before it hurts you. The puzzles feature a wide range of elements from water that solidifies whenever you stop time to platforms that only move when you stop time. There are also simple puzzles that force you to slow time down so you can run under closing doors, etc. In the end, this time manipulation mechanic makes for some truly challenging puzzles and confrontations, especially the tough boss fights.

Touhou Luna Nights screenshot 2
Finding secret upgrades is oh so satisfying

As you progress through Touhou Luna Nights' interconnected game world, you'll discover loads of secret upgrades, level up, and cash in gems for currency that you can redeem for both temporary and permanent items. The thing is; you start off fairly powerful so it feels awesome to accumulate even more abilities and enhance your base stats to the point where dealing with enemies that used to pose a challenge becomes a breeze. Some notable abilities that you'll acquire include the classic double-jump, a special attack where you apparently throw 1000 knives, and you'll even be able to jump on thrown knives whenever you stop time. This wide range of abilities makes exploring the map incredibly rewarding and taking on bosses gradually becomes a rather intense affair after you acquire a plethora of moves that you can utilize to defeat them. This is especially true considering just how difficult some of them can be.

Of course, even though Touhou Luna Nights is a top-notch Metroidvania, it does have its downsides. The main issue that consistently annoyed me is that you regularly have to backtrack in order to enter newly accessible paths. This isn't a big deal in most Metroidvanias but seeing as traversal here often relies on solving puzzles, working through them again can feel quite monotonous. Next, the pause menu displays a map, your current stats, and a grid with item icons in it. However, there really isn't that much information and you lack the ability to browse your inventory and equip stuff. I wish you could read info about each item as well as encyclopedic-style databases. Finally, although it's densely-packed, the world within Touhou Luna Nights is kind of small so don't expect something even close to the size of Hollow Knight's epically large map. In other words, it's not the sort of world that you'll be happy to lose yourself in.

Touhou Luna Nights screenshot 3
Some of these bosses can be a real doozy

Touhou Luna Nights takes the visual style of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and mixes in a unique blend of puzzle-based exploration and combat to create one brilliant Metroidvania. I highly recommend it to any fan of the genre.

  • + Fantastic Metroidvania campaign with awesome time manipulation mechanics
  • + Gorgeous 2D graphics and top-notch audio
  • + Plenty of rewarding upgrades
  • - Backtracking can be rather tedious
  • - Menu isn't all that informative
  • - Game world is on the small side
8.8 out of 10
Gameplay video for Touhou Luna Nights thumbnail
Gameplay video for Touhou Luna Nights 3:11
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